This week's Yizkor book excerpt on the JewishGen Facebook page #poland #yizkorbooks

Bruce Drake

“As soon as the autumn rains ended, the soaked ground was covered with frost, and the first snow dressed up the shtetl for Chanukah.”
So begins this chapter from the Yizkor book of Kaluszyn, Poland, one of two excerpts you will find here on Chanukah which began yesterday evening. The other is Sierpc, also in Poland.
The joys and rituals of the holiday that are lovingly described in these chapters are little different than they are today. A break from school for the children! (“The most important part of that Chanukah festivity was that I did not have to return to cheder after supper.”) The dinners! (“The smell of latkes wafted from all windows until late into the night.”). The menorah! (“As father lit the first candle, we children put our hands on his hand so that we could take part in the commandment of lighting the Chanukah candle.”) Chanukah gelt and games! (“After dinner, Father gave us children Chanukah gelt and we sat on the floor with the neighboring children to play lotteries, dominoes and dreidel.’)
These memories of the holiday include one ominous reflection by the writer of what was to come as he remembered day's end: “The Chanukah candles flickered slowly; one by one the shutters closed, and the night enfolded the little wooden houses of the town. From a distance one could hear only the creaking of the train wheels at the station at Mrozy. Or was it already the sound of the Angel of Death flapping his wings on his way to the shtetl…”

Bruce Drake
Silver Spring, Md.

Towns: Wojnilow, Kovel

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